A/N: This is a prologue of sorts, more like a teaser than a chapter. Life is hard and decisions made in the heat of the moment carry consequences as well as opportunities.
Will eventually reach a happy ending for all who read but...
He was jerked from a reasonably sound sleep by her ring tone. He glanced at his alarm clock – 4:02AM. "The woman has no concept of time.' He hastily answered the phone.
"Hi. Did I wake ya?"
"Um, yeah, you did. What's wrong? He bit back the 'this time' that was almost out of his mouth.
"Nothing. I – I just wanted to hear your voice. I miss you, Shel. Do you miss me?"
He got up and shoved his feet into his bedroom slippers and walked downstairs from his bedroom to the galley kitchen and put the kettle on for tea.
"What's all that banging around, Moon Pie?" He hadn't answered her question. He never did, not any more.
She probably shouldn't have called but she was in a strange city, rehearsals were over early and her hotel room, although top drawer, was empty. She was lonely.
"Making tea. How many times…oh, never mind. It's not like you'll stop calling me 'Moon Pie' at this stage. Where are you?"
"London. We open tomorrow and – and I'm lonely, Sheldon. I miss – "
"Where's what's-his-name, Barney?"
"He…we broke up. He was auditioning for a play off-Broadway and he didn't want to miss an opportunity."
"He didn't last as long as Kermit did."
"Kevin. His name was Kevin, not Kermit, and I just can't seem to find someone like…like you, sweetie. They're either dumb as rocks or they think they're smart but aren't. Actors. You know the type."
"Self-centered, selfish, narcissistic, publicity-seeking frauds who abandon their friends and…and…run after the limelight? Who seem to be ashamed of who and what they were two years ago and act as if that whole time never happened? Yes, Penny, I am intimately familiar with the type."
"God, Sheldon, you can be such an ass!" She shouldn't have called him. This was a mistake. He just didn't understand why she'd left for greener pastures, why her biography on IMDB was so empty of anything real, why her life was so empty. Those other men were just…stuffing in the emptiness of her life, nothing more.
"I get that a lot, Penny," she cringed mentally because she'd heard how he was after their breakup from mutual friends, "but I'm not the one who left. I'm not the one who said – "
"You could have come with me but noooo, you had to – "
"I'm not the one who said 'I don't love you anymore', was I, Penny? I'm not the one who said 'You're not who I need anymore'?"
There was a gasp on her end of the phone and he felt bad for a moment but then remembered the long nights after she'd fled to New York.
"Penny, I never thought we'd end up…I thought what we had was strong and could weather any storm. But I never, not in my wildest dreams, thought that you would stop loving me. Perhaps you never started?"
"Sheldon…" He could hear her sniffing over the phone.
'Great, now she's going to start sniveling and I won't be able to understand a word she says, not that I haven't heard it all before.'
"Penny, how do you do it? I really want to know. I want to know more than I want to figure out String Theory. How do you do it?"
"Do what, sweetie?" She cringed when she realized she'd called him 'sweetie' but it was a habit with her.
"Quit loving someone so totally and so thoroughly and so abruptly? I really need to know. It's hard, Penny, for me to ask but…"
The kettle whistled so he turned off the burner under it and poured the boiling water into a cup and then got a tea bag out of the pantry and began dipping it in the hot water again and again, up and down and up and down and…
"I still kinda love you, Shel, but I never asked you to give up String Theory for me, did I?"
"That's a subtle non sequitur if ever I heard one, Penny. I never asked you to give up your pursuit of your chosen career nor would I have. I understand ambition and obsession far better than you do. If you remember, it was you who decided to head for the 'bright lights' of Broadway and leave me behind. It was…I had to find out from Bernadette, for God's sake. You couldn't even tell me to my face. Just packed up and - "
"Hold on, sweetie, I've got a call on the room phone. Please don't hang up." She stabbed at the mute button on her iPhone. She'd called him 'sweetie' again and sounded so false, even to her.
Supper? Sure…9pm…and then a club? Sounds like fun, Paul.
See you then, honey.
"Sheldon, sorry about that. It was someone from the show about tomorrow…Sheldon? Sheldon?"
"Have a nice dinner and fun at the club, Penny. I think I've figured out how to do it. Please – don't call back. You have no right to treat me like…like 'boredom relief'. "I'll move on, Penny, somehow. Just…don't call me again - ever. Please."
He hung up without bothering to hear her lie again.
She thought she had hit the 'mute' button but obviously hadn't. He sounded so broken and it was all her fault. She'd long ago decided that nothing was going to stop her rise to the top but she hadn't counted on falling for a lanky, nerdy physicist who was as ruthless and ambitious as she was.
But fallen she had. She'd fallen hard and it scared her. She was torn between her dreams and her heart and her dreams won but her dreams had cost her so damned much.
Penny glanced at the clock and then hurried to shower and get her face on and along the way she pushed Sheldon Cooper from her conscious mind and busied herself preparing for her date.
Continuation will depend upon interest. Yes, it's harsh but then so is the world we live and love in. If this goes on, better buckle your seatbelts, boys and girls.